Hastings United through in FA Trophy after Pope double
Hastings United centre-forward Ben Pope struck two second-half goals as they recovered from conceding an early goal to overcome Hythe Town in a hard-fought FA Trophy encounter.
Trailing to a fourth-minute goal, United weathered further early pressure then gradually seized a foothold in the game before taking control. Pope took full advantage of a driving run by Daniel Ajakaiye to bring United level before clinically dispatching a penalty with ten minutes remaining which secured an excellent win.
From the kick off Hythe Town were straight out of the blocks, pressing high up the pitch on a slippery surface and not allowing any United player time on the ball. Hythe’s Carlton did well to keep the ball in play on the touchline for Hughes-Mason to find Collin who hit a long cross-field pass into the path of Flisher running into the penalty area. The angle looked tight but Flisher hit a smart shot across Louis Rogers and into the far bottom corner.
Ten minutes in and Hythe created another chance working the ball out wide for Divine to swing in a cross which Flisher headed wide. It took United fifteen minutes to settle into the game stringing passes together but without forcing an opening. The next chance fell to Hythe via Flisher again, awarded a freekick on the edge of the area which Flisher took himself, shooting high and wide.
After twenty minutes there were more signs of United stirring. Pope and Davide Rodari battled well for the ball on halfway, creating an opportunity for Ajakaiye to take a shot from distance which was deflected for a corner. More chances followed, Craig Stone released Ajakaiye who whipped in a tempting cross just ahead of Pope. Ollie Black and Adam Lovatt worked the ball to Stone who crossed onto the head of Jake Elliott, only for Hythe’s Godmon to pull off an instinctive point-blank save. Stone, involved again, played a ball down the line to Elliott who crossed with pace for Jack Dixon to throw himself at, a brave diving header which flew narrowly wide.
United continued to crank up the pressure after their hesitant start and while Hythe’s intensity had not dropped they were being driven back more and more by United’s own force. Ryan Worrall and Elliott combined well to create another opening for Dixon to drive left-footed but a foot over the bar.
Within minutes of the second-half Hythe won a freekick on the edge of the United area. It was central and struck well but Rogers saved brilliantly to his left. It proved to be a false dawn for the hosts as United were soon back on the offensive. Worrall curled a freekick into Godmon’s hands before Dixon, Lovatt and Ajakaiye broke quickly, and while on this occasion they were crowded out for a goal-kick, the speed of United turning defence into attack was a warning Hythe did not heed.
From a Hythe freekick into the penalty area Rogers punched clear into the path of Dixon who fed Ajakaiye to drive upfield and into the box. He had the opportunity to shoot himself but instead chose the better option with a clever sideways pass to Pope who collected and buried a shot into the corner.
After the restart United attacked again, Sam Beale broke forward and fed Pope to almost repay the favour for Ajakaiye whose shot was deflected wide. The game was being stretched and there were spaces opening up to be exploited.
United won a series of corners, there was pushing and shoving before Stone’s header was saved on the line by Godmon and cleared for another corner. This time a Hythe defender tried to swap shirts with Dixon, stopping him from meeting the cross, and the referee rightly pointed to the spot. Pope, cool and clinical, dispatched the penalty into the bottom corner while the keeper dived the opposite way. 79m, Hythe 1 – 2 United.
Hythe fashioned a chance to equalise immediately but Flisher headed over in what resulted to be their final opening. United, through Sam Adams, forced Godmon to hit a clearance into Rodari which could have gone anywhere. Pope then found space but shot wide and United played out the final minutes for a win against opposition who fully contributed to an entertaining game.
Full-time: Hythe Town 1 – 2 Hastings United
Hastings United: Rogers, Black, Stone, Elliott, Ajakaiye, Pope, Beale, Worrall (68’, Adams), Lovatt, Rodari, Dixon (Unused subs: Chalmers, Pogue, Pool, Azeez)
Hythe Town: Godman, Divine, Simpson, Rogers, Coyle, Rowe, Carlton, Adonis-Taylor (84’ Bassele), Hughes-Mason (76’ Walmsley) , Collin, Flisher (Unused subs: Booth, Ibbertson, Harding, Brown, Eka)
Next game: Tuesday 15th October away to Burgess Hill Town, kick-off 7:30pm (Velocity Sports Trophy).